The River Thames is most widely known because of its significant presence through the bustling city of London. However, London is not the only home of the Thames (pronounced “temz”), as it also flows through Reading, Oxford, Windsor, Eastbourne, Eton, Staines, Richmond and more. Its presence is felt in a total of seven different counties. Because of its extensive nature and its powerful presence, several other natural and geographic features share its name, including the Thames Gateway and the Thames Valley.
With a total length of 346 kilometres (or 215 miles), the River Thames is the longest river that is situated entirely in England; that is with its beginning and end within the confines of this country. Its source is at Thames Head in Gloucestershire, although Seven Springs is also believed by some to be the official source of the river (making it 22 kilometres longer). The official course of the river has been altered slightly to ease navigation. The Thames is tidal in places, rising by up to seven metres during high tide in the city of London. It is fed by more than 20 tributaries.
Because the River Thames comprises areas of both sea water and fresh water, it is home to a wide array of fauna and flora. In addition, there are more than 80 islands in the river, which are also home to their own variety of wildlife. These islands are naturally and historically relevant and include the likes of Formosa Island, Rose Isle, Fry’s Island, Pharaoh’s Island, Eel Pie Island, Ham Island and Glover’s Island. Significantly, Thorney Island used to be an eyot (a small river island, also known as an ait), and is now the home of Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster.
Some of the most commonly-spotted animals that are supported by the River Thames are:
River Thames at dawn at Abingdon, Oxfordshire
• Herring Gull
• Black Swan
• White Swan
• Crested Grebe
• Bar-headed Goose
• Mandarin Duck
• Brown Trout
• Short-snouted Seahorse
• Signal Crayfish
• Chinese Mitten Crab
Throughout history, water has determined the location and movements of various civilisations. The River Thames is no different. Its civilised history is believed to date back some 58 million years. The river provided these ones with water, power, a medium of transportation, food and a convenient location in which to base their homes and primitive societies. Today, it fulfils many of the same requirements. The Thames Water Ring Main is the main means of water distribution (including the distribution of clean drinking water) in London.
However, the river is also a major entity within the tourism and recreational fields. Not only are river cruises through London a great way to see hotspots such as the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament, London Eye and Big Ben, but locals also use the river for a variety of water sports. Rowing is a particularly popular and significant sport played on the River Thames, with two of the world-renowned competitions being the University Boat Race and the Henley Royal Regatta.
In addition, the river has provided the police and fire fighting services with a fabulous resource in terms of getting around the different towns of England fast, without being hampered by traffic. It remains a shocking fact that approximately one dead body is found in the Thames every week.
Testifying to its rich and significant presence, the River Thames has been included in various famous literary works, including:
• Three Men in a Boat (Jerome K. Jerome - 1889)
• Our Mutual Friend (Charles Dickens - 1864–65)
• The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame – 1908)
• The Sherlock Holmes stories (Arthur Conan Doyle)
• Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad)
• The Mirror of the Sea (Joseph Conrad - 1906)
• Portrait of a Lady (Henry James)
For more information, please view: http://www.riverthames.co.uk/